Carper Delivers Tribute to Bob Dole on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) yesterday spoke on the Senator floor honoring and remembering the life of former Senator Bob Dole. Last week, Carper paid respects to Dole, who lied in state in the Capitol Rotunda. 

“Bob was a proud Republican who ran three times for his party’s nomination for the presidency, but I believe that Bob will be remembered most fondly for his ability to find common ground,” said Carper. “And I think Senator Dole said it best himself, and I quote: ‘When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation.’ He was right. We can accomplish far more when we work together as one nation, rather than as members of different political parties.”

You can view Sen. Carper’s full remarks here, and find his remarks as prepared for delivery below.

“M. President, as our nation continues to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation, I rise today to add to the countless tributes befitting the late, great Senator from Kansas—Bob Dole. 

“Born Robert Joseph Dole on July 22, 1922 in Russell, Kansas, Bob grew up during a period known as the Dust Bowl in the American heartland—where his family, like so many others, struggled to pay rent and put food on the table. 

“Bob was a star athlete in high school who wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He began his studies at the University of Kansas, but, like many young Americans at that time, Bob’s plans were interrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s army marching across Europe. 

“Bob enlisted in the Army Reserves and was called to active duty in 1943. Two years later, at the age of 21 as part of the Tenth Mountain Division, Bob was severely injured on the battlefield in Italy after bravely pulling a fellow solider to safety. He sustained grave injuries to his spine, shoulder, and hand, and, by all accounts, was left for dead. But Bob, like the United States and our Allies, persevered.

“Despite long odds to recovery, Bob never gave up and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He spent 39 months recovering in a hospital bed, undergoing numerous surgeries. When doctors told him that he was partially paralyzed, he built a device to help him regain his strength and was able to not only stand up straight but, eventually, to walk again.

“Bob knew he was lucky to make it home, and in the decades he spent in public service after sustaining his injuries, he dedicated much of his life to ensuring that our veterans, especially our fallen heroes during World War II, were honored and remembered for their sacrifices. 

“My own uncle Bob Patton – my mom’s youngest brother – was one of those sailors who wasn’t lucky enough to make it home. He died at the age of 19 in 1944 during a kamikaze attack in the western Pacific on his aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Suwanee. While his body was never recovered, his memory has lived on, thanks, in no small part, to Senator Bob Dole’s work to establish the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

“Though they never met, Senator Dole, like so many Americans of the Greatest Generation, understood that my Uncle Bob made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and for the preservation of democracy itself. That’s why Senator Dole spent so much of his time raising money for the World War II Memorial, and why he spent so many Saturdays there greeting veterans and thanking them for their service. This meant the world to families, like mine, who lost a loved one during the war.

“When Bob was finally able to stand on his own two feet again, the town of Russell rallied around him and encouraged him to run for office.  After a short stint in local Kansas politics, Bob served in the U.S. House of Representatives for four terms before being elected to the Senate in 1968, the same year that I was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy at the height of the Vietnam War. For 35 years, Bob proudly served the people of Kansas in Washington. His time in Congress, especially as a Senator, is really where his legacy in public service started to take shape.

“He was a proud Republican who ran three times for his party’s nomination for the presidency, but I believe that Bob will be remembered most fondly for his ability to find common ground. And I think Senator Dole said it best himself, and I quote: “When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation. He was right. We CAN accomplish far more when we work together as one nation, rather than as members of different political parties. 

“Bob himself said his proudest political accomplishments were passing the bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act and working to find a principled compromise to save Social Security—a compromise I proudly supported as a newly elected freshman in the House of Representatives in 1983. 

“And I believe Bob embodied the admonition of Matthew 25—to care for the ‘least of these’ among us. He worked alongside the South Dakota Senator George McGovern, a liberal Democrat, to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the federal food stamps program, to ensure that struggling families could feed themselves and their children. Bob took Matthew 25—‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat’—and turned it into law that to this day helps lift Americans out of poverty and on to longer, healthier lives.

“Because, ultimately, Bob followed his moral compass, even when it wasn’t politically convenient: he wasn’t afraid to buck his party when he felt it was the right thing to do. He was a fiscal conservative, but he supported tax reforms that raised revenue. He also supported the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – landmark civil rights bills that sought to eliminate racial discrimination from our laws and sought to ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans. 

“M. President, these accomplishments required hard-fought negotiations and courageous votes—but Bob never let that interfere with his incredible sense of humor. When Bob’s wonderful wife —and our former colleague Elizabeth—was in front of the Senate Labor Committee in 1989 for her confirmation hearing, Bob was by her side to introduce her. Following his defeat in the 1988 Republican presidential primary, he opened his remarks by saying, ‘I regret that I have one wife to give for my country.’ He went on to add, ‘If I had had this much coverage in the primary, I would be writing my inaugural address!’ He then continued to say: ‘I once dreamed of making a name for myself in Washington, but I never thought it would be as the husband of the Secretary of Labor, but I’ll take what comes these days.’

“The truth is, M. President, as much as Bob Dole probably learned while serving here in the Senate, the Senate could learn a lot more from the life and example of Bob Dole. And we could use more Senator Doles in this body today. On both sides of the aisle. 

“Bob was a serious man, but he didn’t take himself too seriously. He didn’t care for politicians who divided us just for the sake of division. He also didn’t care for big egos or folks who wanted to do something just so they could take the credit for it. He believed the words of Abraham Lincoln, one of his personal heroes, that ours is a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ That’s why he fought and nearly gave his life in defense of our nation. That’s why he continued to serve our nation, always striving to improve the lives of Kansans and all Americans.

“We owe it to Senator Dole, to my Uncle Bob, and to the entire Greatest Generation—who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice for us to live in a free and democratic country—to uphold the ideals of our democracy and work together to create a brighter, better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

“So as we mourn the passing of Bob Dole, I would challenge all of us to prioritize principles over party—and humanity over personal legacy. We can all work better together to address the challenges of today and confront the challenges of tomorrow. 

“M. President, I’ll close with this. You may remember that the famous film the Wizard of Oz took place in Bob’s proud home state of Kansas. Throughout the film, Dorothy is reminded that ‘there is no place like home.’ Well, M. President, Senator Dole entered these halls one last time today, to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Earlier this afternoon, I, like many of our colleagues here today, had the chance to pay my respects to Bob—a man of integrity, wit, and passion. Now, it’s time to send Bob home—back to Russell, Kansas—one last time. Because there is truly no place like home. And with that, I yield the floor.”